Friday, 28 January 2011

Favourite Films on Friday: #47, The Thing

Classification #47

The very first shot of The Thing shows a flying saucer burning into The Earth’s atmosphere, the mighty globe and the odd star illuminating an otherwise perfectly black background. It is by far the weakest moment of the entire film. The spaceship is a poorly-designed piece of not-particularly-special FX. It looks a bit naff, but this is a b-movie from the early ‘80s: there’s no shortage of that.

More than that, it’s that, for one moment, it pretends to be a proper sci-fi film. The Thing is summed up much better in the next scene, as a husky runs, against a pure white backdrop. One innocuous-looking dog manages to be a dozen times more threatening, especially when accompanied by Morricone’s score.

This one shot never fits with the rest of the whole. It’s is a film about isolation, and about (more-or-less) normal guys in a difficult situation. The Thing works best as a film of ambiguity and questions. What is the Thing? More importantly: who is the Thing? Is it him? Or him? Or you? Even the end of the film is a big fat question mark.

It’s all about being unsure until the very moment you pull the trigger. Is he my friend or is he the monster? And that’s what The Thing boils down to. It grinds down to the very bones of narrative tension, sheer trust-vs.-betrayal, making a single irreversible decision. And making it wrong.

And with that in mind, nothing else – the way the film balances instantly-classic iconography with characters just well sketched enough to be believable, the beautiful Arctic cinematography – none of that matters. All there is wondering if your friend will betray you, and making hard decisions based on what you reckon.

Except that they’re not friends. They’re just a bunch of guys who work together, from the moment they wake up to the moment they fall asleep. This is what makes The Thing better to (film-snob blasphemy!) the original Alien, which is almost certainly its model. We’ve all been there, wondering which workmate is going to stab us in the back next. And of course – especially if you’re trapped in the Arctic with a shape-changing alien – the answer is always all of them.

FFoF47 The Thing

Friday, 21 January 2011

Favourite Films on Fridays: #48, Where The Wild Things Are

Classification #48

I can't help but remember how Where the Wild Things Are had the potential to be the perfect film.

An stunningly ambitious attempt to extrapolate a full, sprawling film out of the ten sentences of a children’s book. A couple of those sorts of people whose next work is always exciting by virtue of existing – in this case, Dave Eggers and Spike Jonze, novelist and music-video director – saying all the right, interesting things. Wanting to make a movie about the truth of childhood, and the full confusing spectrum of emotions it contains. Also, big furry monsters.

It was one of those projects you discover late at night on the internet, and spend hours reading about, and sigh, imagining what would happen if it ever actually came out.

And then a trailer came out, fusing beautiful images with a version of The Arcade Fire’s Wake Up that raised that lump in my throat. Then a soundtrack, bringing Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs into the mix. It could only be the perfect film, right?

Awimbaway

Watching Where The Wild Things Are at last was one of the worst cinematic experiences of my life. It was my 21st birthday, in one of the coldest rooms in which I’ve ever had the misfortune to spend two hours. The clues were all there as the first trailer played. Backwards. During the film, the picture would flicker, the soundtrack occasionally replaced with a guttural, mechanical screech. Midway through, the screen onto which the film was being wonkily projected appeared to start melting…

And I faced the truth that every pop super-group ever has gone of its way to teach us: that things are so very often less than the sum of their fascinating parts. Where The Wild Things Are looked like it had a shot at being my favourite film. But this is a list, and – sorry to say – we’re not at #1 yet. It managed to make it all the way to 48…

On the other hand, this is my 48th favourite film. Of all time. (Fact.) So far, it’s the one that’s inspired me to write the most, my feverish scribblings accompanied by that brittle soundtrack. It’s how the whole film looks so beautifully crafted, in the way you want to take almost any frame and put it on your wall. It’s the dusty palette that makes the film look a little like it was found tucked down the backseat, without having to rely on the ‘drained of colour’ brown we videogame fans are so familiar with these days.

And it really does expands the scope of Maurice Sendak’s book infinitely, adapting the spirit that a young Eggers and Jonze clearly found in it rather than being slavishly true to its plot or images. What it does take from the book is a sort of Wizard of Oz structure, with the first fifteen minutes showing us Max’s troubled home-life, before we entering the fantasy world where those titular wild things are. It may or may not be real, and events from the ‘real’ world recur in this fantastic land of monsters.

But it’s much more subtle than recasting characters as fantastical versions of themselves, turning the evil old lady up the road into a witch and then promptly squashing her. It’s little visual cues, emotional echoes. I only just noticed the origins of Max’s robot dance, which makes a pivotal plot point late in the film, in the opening. That’s a failing of the film, really, as it robs the second moment of a lot of its poignancy and meaning, but it also feels like the film is rewarding you for watching it again.

It’s about exploring the full range of emotions, chasing them into the darkest crevices. It’s about telling stories, and about metaphor. It’s about a bunch of silly little moments tied together as flimsily as Sendak did in the first place, in those couple of dozen pages… It’s not an easy film, and it manages to make the 90 minutes that it lasts feel somehow much longer. Being a children’s film marketed to the widest possible audience, that damned it. Being a film I felt like I’d dreamt up in the first place, one late night … that was perfect.

FFoF49 WhereTheWildThingsAre

Friday, 14 January 2011

Favourite Films on Fridays: #49, Airplane!

FFoF49
Airplane! is one of those films that, having seeped into the cultural consciousness long ago, is doomed to sitting there, telling its best three jokes over and over into infinity.

Different films deal with this in different ways: the Monty Python films work to turn this repeated quotability into a virtue, creating small cults of 'Ni! Ni! Ni!'ing fans. Approaching This is Spinal Tap for the first time now is a waiting game of ticking off the famous gags that deflates the spirit and originality that made the film special in the '80s.

Airplane!, meanwhile, pays no heed to its classic status. It's as famous for firing off its hundreds of jokes at machine-gun velocity as it is for "and don't call me Shirley", or Otto the auto-pilot. And that means there are plenty of unexplored nooks and crannies to be discovered, which in turns means this 30 year-old film remains fresh and, most importantly, funny.

The jokes go by so fast (and with an admittedly, and possibly not entirely unintentionally, not great hit rate) that for the most part they just serve to provide colour. Jive-talking translators, children who like their men like they like their coffee, and undercover-basketball-player co-pilots mean that, thankfully, Airplane! remains as impossible to predict or anticipate as Captain Oveur's questions: Joey, have you ever been in a Turkish prison?

FFoF49Airplane

Friday, 7 January 2011

Favourite Films on Fridays: #50, The Wrestler

Okay, so welcome to What I Did Next. 52 Fridays in 2011, 50 of my favourite films to watch and write about. Will I manage it? Therein lies the challenge.
Classification #50
"The Ultimate Man Film" promises FHM! The Wrestler "will floor you"! Five Stars from Nuts! "Love. Pain. Glory."

...I find it worrying that anyone could approach The Wrestler with a lad-mag attitude. Yes, there are fights, and explicit violence, and even boobies. If you're willing to let the context slip far enough, there are even lesbians, and a conversation about Call of Duty.

These are all great, cinematic things (well, maybe not the CoD chats) in the right context. These are the makings of, for example, a brilliant Steven Seagal film. But The Wrestler very specifically goes out of its way to suck any pretense of glamour out of those things. What it does as a film, what defines it, is to show the dark truth of those adolescent male fantasies, having a stripper girlfriend and wearing sweaty latex pants and beating other people up.

To clarify: this is a film with Marisa Tomei's (emphatically old, but still - despite the lovely girlfriend's protestations to the contrary - unreservedly fine) breasts in it. But it's also a film in which you're forced to watch the time-ravaged male-equivalent body shower with a plastic bag over a heart-bypass scar. It is a surgical removal of any illusion of dignity.

...Which sounds like a right barrel of laughs, doesn't it? But The Wrestler is delivered with the precise timing of a bitter, middle-aged comedian. It reminds you that life isn't always dignified, even in the movies, but at times it invites you to laugh at that. And that makes it a bit better, sometimes, and then it encourages you to cry about it.

It's not a pretty film: it pushes us eyes-first into ugliness every chance it gets. But it never revels in that. It's as much the deeply-ploughed gouges in Mickey Rourke's face and the bad bleach job on his hair as it is barbed-wire punches and shaky-cam lapdances. It's just honest, and that makes it the opposite of the lad-mag fantasy the DVD case seems so desperate to convince us it is. But all those readers who bought into the claims on the cover, who actually picked up the DVD and watched The Wrestler? I can't imagine any of them going away thinking oh, cool, wrestling and boobies! I also can't imagine any of them turning it off, or failed to be roused by the sharp, sudden end. So maybe it is the Ultimate Man Film, after all.
#50: The Wrestler

Thursday, 6 January 2011

...&FRIENDS!: Taking Down The Metaphorical Christmas Tree


AlexInc

Annnnd we're out.

Thankyou, every single pair of eyeballs that are laid on this. And to all the many pairs that won't see this, but did read something. I hope you all enjoyed your time Chez Spencer as much as we enjoyed having you.

I'm having to be careful to stop myself from gushing here, the last month having been really wondefully interesting. The old ego was fed by the uptick in visitors (and kept in check by the fact that it was always other people's stuff that got the most hits, which is as it should be). My faith in humanity was fed by the titular &Friends, every single one of them an operator at the highest degree. Hopefully Alex-Spencer&Friends was a good platform for all the fascinating material it somehow managed to attract.

Speaking of which...

THE COMPLETE ALEX-SPENCER&FRIENDS! COMPENDIUM

"But is it Christmas?":

The Problem With Festive Songs
(Alex Spencer)

"Tim's Top Cinematic Treat of The Year":
The Brothers Bloom
(Tim Maytom)

"Call to Arms":
Belle & Sebastian Live, Being One of The Best Gigs of the Year
(Alex Spencer)

"2010 - A Glass Half-Full":
Drawing A Line Between Empire State of Mind and a Good Year
(Sam Lewis)

"2010 - A Glass Half-Empty":
Drawing a Line Between New York is Killing Me and a Complete Mess of a Year
(Sam Lewis)

"A Pee-Pee Soaked Heckhole":
Solium Infernum & The Joy of Making Friends Weep
(Alex Spencer)

"Gifts for the Music Enthusiast/Talentless Scenester in Your Life":
On Being a Hipster at Christmas

(Sam Cowley)

"The Ten Best Moments on Girl Talk's All Day, in Chronological Order":

or, Beats per Second, a Manifesto
(Miles Bradley)

"What Are Your Essential Pieces of Christmas Culture?":
An Examination of the Fragmented Subjectivity of the Festive Period

(Team &Friends!)

"Technology 2010, an Overview":
Why & How Dav Hates Apple and Will Be Their End
(David Inkpen)

"Best Album Haikus":
Insanity/
(Tim Maytom)

"All Day" :
How I Learned To Stop Worrying & Love The Mashup

(Alex Spencer)

"{7} Years of Manic Pixie Dream Girls":
A Cinematic History

(Alex Spencer)

"The State of Games in 2010":
An Hyperbolic Over-Reaching

(Alex Spencer)

"Listomania, I":
Being Half of 2010, Defined in Single Sentences

(Alex Spencer)

"Man of The Year":
A Verdict Given, Too Modestly
(Tim Maytom)

"Listomania, II":
Being The Other Half of 2010, Defined in Single Sentences
(Alex Spencer)

BlogBannerMultiColour2

Alex-Spencer...&Friends! It was a rare successful experiment, and one of my defining parts of 2010. At risk of getting a bit like one of those work do's where everyone is giving everyone else bouquets of flowers and boxes of chocolates and cheeky snogs outside the fire exit, thankyou. It wasn't the smoothest ride, I know, but y'all made it look elegantly effortless.

Peace and love, 2011. Enjoy the future.

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Monday, 3 January 2011

Listomania: 2010 in One Hundred Sentences, Pt 2


[You have selected: Alex Spencer]
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Disclaimers: these continue to be non-numerically ordered, except occasionally. Very much continued from Part One:
picture2life_77321_original
50. Cee Lo Green - F*BOING!!!* You (Single, August 19)
...But not by this, which achieved the rare feat of gaining all the popularity it deserved.
49. Lost - 'The End' (TV: Series 6, Episode 17)
Far from perfect, but it was the culmination of six years waiting, and it delivered in at least a few ways.
48. Taskmaster #1 (Comic, Marvel)
A perfectly-structured comic with a sense of humour, about memory and the silliness of supervillians.
47. Super Meat Boy (XBLA Game, Team Meat)
Tender meat crashes against hard-as-nails levels, again and again and again.
46. Robyn - Indestructible (Single, December 15)
The best Robyn song of a year of great Robyn songs, paying off a mild acoustic version into full-on electropop heartbreak.
45. Mystery Jets - Serotonin (Album, Rough Trade)
Which has faded for me a little with time, but remains a fantastically well-sculpted piece of work.
44. 'The James Franco Project' (Article, New York Magazine)
As this list probably shows, 2010 was the year I discovered profiles of celebrities; also how fascinating James Franco is.
43. House to Astonish (Podcast)
Perhaps the most particular pleasure on this list: two blokes analysing and chatting about the world of comics.
42. Christina Aguilera - Woohoo (Single, May 18)
One of the excellent (and in this case ridiculous) tracks - of which there are a few - on Bionic, in case featuring Nicki Minaj and childlike euphenisms.
41. Xiu Xiu - Dear God, I Hate Myself (from Dear God I Hate Myself)
Proving that any emotion, pushed far enough into melodrama, can be unexpectedly catchy pop.
40. N-Strike Night Finder EX-3 (Nerf Gun)
There have already been a couple of late nights defined by these ridiculous, hilarious toys.
39. Super Crate Box (PC Game, Downloadable)
Apply large range of weapons to rapidly approaching enemies in a 2d platforming landscape; only held from Spelunky-esque greatness by its brevity.
38. The Arcade Fire - The Suburbs (Music Video, dir. Spike Jonze)
Arcade Fire continued work on winning me over on this album with... a Spike Jonze sci-fi-inflected suburban teens video?
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37. Big Boi - Sir Luscious Left-Foot (Album, Def Jam)
Continues to defy my every attempt to write about it: top-end, foot-stomping, inventive hip-hop.
36. Kylie - All The Lovers (Single, 28 June)
2010 was the year I got why people fancied Kyle: All The Lovers definitely helped.
35. Invincible Iron Man: Stark Disassembled (Trade Paperback, Marvel)
A story of which Stark spends 90% unconscious on the floor of a school's basement has never been so thrilling.
34. Crystal Castles with Robert Smith - Not in Love (Single, December 6)
Putting a heartbeat in the frozen chest of the Crystal Castles machine.
33. LCD Soundsystem - This is Happening (Album, DFA Records)
The one album of this year (that I was able to get into) that still felt bigger than me, and probably always will.
32. The Redletter 'Attack of the Clones' Review (Youtube Video)
Not as good as the original Phantom Menace review, perhaps, but still observant and inventive enough to (almost) justify the films' existence.
31. Lady Gaga - Alejandro (Single, May 18)Gaga drawing from a slightly different, more Euro-centric set of influences and screaming my name in Spanish.
30. @kanyewest (Twitter Account)
I've had to break it off, now, but this was amazing fun - Kanye sharing his passion for rugs, and begging our forgiveness - while it lasted.
29. Nicki Minaj - Your Love (Single, June 1)
Ms. Minaj has been one of this year's most interesting cases, and Your Love is the perfect debut single
28. PunisherMAX: Kingpin (Trade Paperback, Marvel)Really, deeply horrible stuff, with the odd dirty laugh, in the fine tradition of the Punisher.
29. Gameboys From Hell (Article, Rock Paper Shotgun)
How I came to meet and love Solium Infernum, but also an unusually compelling game-diary in and of itself.
28. Standard Fare - Fifteen (from The Noyelle Beat)
The year's best song about that paedophilic gray area known as 15-years-old.
27. Belle & Sebastian - I Didn't See it Coming (from Write About Love)
Write About Love didn't quite find my heart this year, but a lot of its songs did, and this climbed straight to the top of the pile.
26. Come Dine With Me (TV, Channel 4)
Which I watched everywhere, with everyone, inspiring a multitude of emotional responses, all year long.
picture2life_77321_original - Copy (2)
25. Los Campesinos! - Romance is Boring (Album, Wichita)
Didn't go quite as far as I wanted into EMO, but is still a fantastic album.
24. Mystery Jets - Flash a Hungry Smile (from Serotonin)
Being a bit embarassingly frank and earnest about sexual urges, whilst whistling, is what Mystery Jets should always sound like.
23. Hot Chip - One Life Stand (Music Video, dir. Peter Serafinowicz)
Equal parts hilarious and horrifying.
22. Blur (360 Game, Bizarre)
Probably the most consistently underrated game of the year; that Bizarre are non-existent is tragic.
21. Katy Perry - Firework (Single, October 26)
Actually kind of standing in for the joint impact of this and Teenage Dream, which were slow burners in my affections but both worked perfectly.
20. Perfect Dark (XBLA Game, 4J)
It's pretty surprising, given my lack of nostalgic attachment to the original, how well this stands up 10 years on.
19. 'Roger Ebert: The Essential Man' (Article, New York Times)Which was a pretty heartwrenching way of learning the year's gaming boogeyman was ill
18. Belle & Sebastian, Birmingham Symphony Hall, 06/12/10
B&S + Orchestra + Musical Storytelling as Support = Best Gig of the Year
17. The Divine Comedy - At the Indie Disco (from Bang Goes The Knighthood)
A great gimmick to build a song around, perfectly observed.
16. The xx - Islands (Music Video, dir. Saam)
A perfect, neat conceptual video of an endlessly looping, slowly changing three-second dance: this is my bag, baby.
15. Robyn - Dancing on My Own (Acoustic, BBC Live Lounge)
Should've been on the final Body Talk, to complete the cycle of acoustic/dancefloor versions of singles, and because it is best.
14. Ellerbisms (Webcomic)
Which ended with a classically Ellerbisms emo-sweetness earlier this year.
13. Daisy Owl (Webcomic)
Which ended, completely without warning earlier this year.
12. Kermode & Mayo's Film Reviews (Podcast)
Which have owned the vast majority of walks I've taken this year, and the majority of cinema tickets I've bought.
11. Girl Talk - All Day (Album, Illegal Art)
Much spoken about.
10. Spotify (Software, v2.0)
Spotify has officially taken over: it's the first guest at any party, it defines what I listen to and when, and it's replaced poor Media Player in my heart.
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9. 30 Days of Music (Meme)
A lot less tangible than pretty much everything on this list, but the one which SHOOK THIS BLOG TO ITS CORE!!!
8. Stewart Lee - 'Vegetable Stew' (Standup, Wolverhampton Civic)
Very clearly material-in-progress, but Stewart Lee is one of those people I find incessantly fascinating; also, hilarious.
7. Gil Scott-Heron - I'm New Here (Album, XL)
A character piece focused on a very real character.
6. The Arcade Fire - The Suburbs (Album, Mercury Records)
...Okay, I admit it, I ended up really liking it.
5. Toy Story 3 (Film, dir. Lee Unkrich)
At all times Toy Story 3 provided at least one of: lump in throat/laughter/sheer visual beauty.
4. Return of Bruce Wayne #2 (Comic, DC)
Batman travels through time, from the stone age to the end of time: how was it ever going to be anything less than brilliant?
3. "Punch these pretentious things and just punch a clock" (lyric from Arcade Fire's Sprawl II)
If this website had something carved into its arm, it would be these words.
2. "Carve my snatch into a smile" (lyric from The Indelicates' Flesh)
...And these would be the words which haunted its dreams.
1. Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour (Graphic Novel, Oni Press)
And it really was.

...Quite the year, I'm sure you'll agree. Thanks for reading, folks. Next we meet, we can get back to the matter of the future!


About The Author: Alex
About the author:
Alex Spencer lives in a palace
built of his satisfaction at the
masterful work of his peers. No,
you're my favourite! No, you!

Sunday, 2 January 2011

(Intermission) TIM's Person of the Year

[You have selected: Tim Maytom]
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A break from breathless one-sentence listporn from a familiar face...

Person of the Year – Donald Glover

We live in a society without many renaissance men (or women) nowadays. It’s understandable – human knowledge has expanded to the point where one person can’t know “everything” or be considered at the top of their field in a wide variety of subjects. Still, that doesn’t stop the occasional individual from surprising you, and in that spirit, my Person of the Year is Donald Glover.
Donald-Glover
I first became aware of Donald Glover as Troy Barnes on Community, a show that has, in the past year, rapidly become one of my favourite sitcoms of all time. It boasts a flawless ensemble of comedy talent in its main group of characters, but early standouts were the unlikely pairing of Troy, a high school quarterback of considerable stupidity, and Abed, a film and TV nerd who communicates almost exclusively through pop culture references. The two shared a child-like enthusiasm for fun, and their interactions often formed the basis for the post-episode, over-the-credits stings.

As the series carried on, all the characters developed considerably, and the second season is continuing this growth while also maintaining a 'no weak episode' run that is frankly intimidating. But Community isn’t the only place Donald Glover could be found this year. Glover got his start with the 'Derrick Comedy' troupe, whose online sketches are well worth checking out on YouTube, and as a writer on 30 Rock before leaving to concentrate on his stand-up. He joined Community shortly after, but that hasn’t stopped him from getting a special on Comedy Central this year and demonstrating that in addition to sketch and scripted comedy, he can kill on stage too.

Writer, actor, comedian – that’s three solid strings to his bow. But why not throw in a fourth? Because he’s also a pretty astonishing rapper in his spare time, under the name 'Childish Gambino'. Not only has he put out EPs rapping over a variety of top shelf tracks (Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear, Sleigh Bells, The Very Best) but he’s also created an album, working with Ludwig Göransson, one of the composers of Community’s score. Culdesac (put out for free, just like his previous EPs) is a remarkably assured piece of work for what Glover claims is just what he does to relax. He wears his influences on his sleeve, with references to Kanye West and Lil Wayne, but Glover has made something all his own, with earworm-y hooks and witty, incisive lyrics.

More than anything else, I have to respect Glover’s work ethic – the sheer amount of places he can be found this year has been astonishing. He has managed to achieve what I like to call 'The Swan Effect' – appearing effortlessly graceful and cool, while working like hell underneath the surface. If I can spend 2011 working half as hard as he has, then I’ll be extremely proud of myself, and if I can look a tenth as good while I do it, then I’ll be very happy indeed.

AboutAuthorTim
About the author:

Tim Maytom is himself, for reasons that
should be obvious by now, one of this
website's Persons of The Year. As this will
be his final ...&Friends! contribution, it is only
responsible to point readers suffering from
withdrawal symptoms to trivia-lad.tumblr.com

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Listomania: 2010 in One Hundred Sentences, Pt 1


[You have selected: Alex Spencer]
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My latest experiment in making end-of-year lists a little more interesting, for everyone involved. One hundred short(ish) sentences on the years best ... well, anything. I never can confine myself to one medium very successfully, a fact to which this website is testament. Arranged in little to no particular order, except when there's a reason.
2010 Part 1
100. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (Film, dir. Edgar Wright)
Not Scott's finest hour (or Wright's) but merely not-screwing-up makes it one of the best films of the year.
99. The Indelicates - Flesh (from Songs for Swinging Lovers)
At least briefly my song of the year, for its absolute brutal beauty.
98. The Arcade Fire - Sprawl II (from The Suburbs)
Arcade Fire would have to work pretty hard to get me to fall for this new album: Sprawl II, being another best-of-year prospect, worked harder than that.
97. Batman & Robin #13 (Comic, DC)
One of the best issues of the greatest fun I've ever had with a superhero.
96. Inception (Film, dir. Christopher Nolan)
Lots of moving parts and head scratching: the year's best-designed puzzle.
95. Sleep is Death (PC Game, Jason Rohrer)
I love it just for existing: a game of telling stories and endless lo-fi possibilities.
94. Big Boi - Fo Yo Sorrows (from Sir Lucious Left Foot)The first teasing appetiser which got me all excited for Big Boi's solo debut.
93. Panique au Village (Film, dir. Stephane Aubier & Vincent Patar)

You know how sometimes you see films on a whim of a lazy Sunday afternoon, and sometimes they're insane genius?
92. Rihanna - Rude Boy (Single, February 22)
Female all-powerful sexpop: mm, my favourite!
91. Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii Game, Nintendo)
Like a blackhole, it sucks you in, time is compressed: on the other side lies a new world of twisty beauty.
90. The Social Network (Film, dir. David Fincher)
Which I still haven't seen twice, otherwise it'd probably be my favourite of the year and I'd have written a 2,000 word post on why.
89. Die Antwoord - Enter the Ninja (Single, August 9)
If only for Danny Stoker spitting the "my life's like a videogame” lines at every opportunity.
88. Vampire Weekend - Giving Up The Gun (Music Video, dir. The Malloys)
Pop-surrealism, tennis, RZA and a Jonas Brother... you wanna watch it now, don't you?
87. Night & Day (Short Film, Pixar)
In which Pixar play to their masterfully efficient storytelling skills, and present, essentially, an update Chuck Berry cartoon.
86. Phonogram: Singles Club #7 (Comic, Image)
Because sometimes you just have to go howling into the night.
Pt 1 Strip 1
85. Gorillaz - On Melancholy Hill (Single, July 26)
In which Gorillaz strip away most of what makes them Gorillazy, and reveal a pure reverberating heart.
84. Green T (Restaurant, Lichfield, UK)
The all-you-can-eat philosophy applied to an actual fantastic menu of freshly-cooked Chinese food.
83. Robyn - Indestructible (Music Video, dir. Ljunggren & Vitali)Gets sex more right than any video/film/etc I've ever seen.
82. Example - Kickstarts (Single, June 14)
Given the last thing I liked of Example's was 2007's Don't Want To, I was totally blindsided by this shard of perfect pop music.
81. Halo: Reach - Beta (360 Game, Bungie)
I've still only played the Beta, but that month of four maps and three game-modes gave me more fun than most entire games.
80. Sleigh Bells - Treats (Album, N.E.E.T./Mom & Pop)
...Which, when pressured last night, I named my Favourite Album of the Year.
79. Lost - 'Dr Linus' (TV, Series 6 Episode 7)
The last time Lost was ever truly great.
78. Kate Nash - Mansion Song (from My Best Friend is You)
It's been a great year for songs that make me feel uncomfortable about being male, and for good reason.
77. Super Scribblenauts (DS Game, 5th Cell)
The cause of a couple of entirely welcome sleepless nights of wondering 'what if you tried...?'.
76. Neil Young's Greendale (Comic, Vertigo)
Bundling together a load of stuff I have no interest in, swiftly solved by Cliff Chiang's art.
75. LCD Soundsystem - I Can Change (Single, June 26)
Pathetic in the all the right, searingly honest ways.
74. Robyn - U Should Know Better (from Body Talk Pt 2)
The second best song this year to feature Snoop Dogg.
73. Stacja De Luxe (Bar, Gdansk, Poland)
If you don't like the idea of drinking cocktails in a converted Polish petrol station, well, you're dead to me.
72. Four Lions (Film, Dir. Chris Morris)
Thought very deeply about, and humanised the terrorist threat ... and then blew it up.
71. Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine #1 (Comic, Marvel)
Probably the most fun you can have with 22 pages of drawings of guys in their pyjamas.

Pt 1 Strip 2
70. Scott Pilgrim vs The World (Soundtrack, Various)
The best soundtrack in a year of great soundtracks...
69. Inception (Score, Hans Zimmer)...and the best score.
68.
Los Campesinos! (Gig @ The Rainbow, Birmingham, 1 March)
The only gig that's ever left me excited enough to follow the band to Northampton the next day.
67. The Expendables (Film, dir. Sylvester Stallone)
Perhaps the greatest comedy film of the year.
66. Solium Infernum (PC Game, Cryptic Comet)
Boardgames aren't cool; screwing your friends over is cool.
65. 'The Gastronomic Logic of No Puddings' (Blog, Lunch & Dinner Made Me)
Made a no-pudding tragedy into something clever and funny that only Dan could/would have written.
64. Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles (Album, Polydor)
Which got overshadowed by Treats, its younger sexier cousin, but was the Right Thing To Do Next for Crystal Castles.
63. Lady Gaga & Beyonce - Telephone (Music Video, dir. Jonas Akerlund)
Self-consciously Gaga's 'Thriller': any possible self-inflation was undercut by the brilliance of the cigarette sunglasses.
62. Big Boi feat. Vonnegutt - Follow Us (Single, July 20)
Just another fine cut from Big Boi's album that works even better standing alone.
61. Atta Girl (Club, Island Bar, Birmingham)
Girls-only music + Phonogram posters + free veggie cakes + hugging the DJ at the end = best clubnight ever.
60. Lara Croft: Guardian of Light (XBLA Game, Crystal Dynamics)
Tomb Raider used to encourage you to yell at Lara; this encourages you to give your co-op buddy a dead arm.Pt 1 Strip 3
59. My Chemical Romance - Na Na Na [Na Na Na Na Na] (Single, 7 November)
If you don't pump your fist in the air at the beautiful stupidity of that title, you won't like this, and you're wrong.
58. Janelle Monae - The ArchAndroid (Album, Bad Boy Records)
Actually me hedging my bets: failed to give it enough time this year, but it's the kind of classy pop that will recur in 2011.
57. 'M.I.A's Agitprop Pop' (Profile, New York Times)
Went about ruining poor M.I.A.'s year, but in a way that made for fascinating reading.
56. M.I.A - XXXO
And it wasn't really her year; but XXXO is a direct hit to the temple, to the feet, via the hips.
55. Cemetery Junction (Film, dir. Ricky Gervais & Stephen Merchant)
Small town England, given the Hollywood treatment; but, like, really good.
54. @discographies (Twitter Account)
Not just tweet-length album reviews; entire artist reviews in 140 characters.
53. Los Campesinos! - The Sea is A Good Place To Think About The Future (from Romance is Boring)
Which was my favourite song of last year, but the album came out in 2010, and this song still dominated it.
52. Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - In The Hall of The Mountain King (from The Social Network Soundtrack)
Made the Alton Towers song really actually quite terrifying.
51. Katy Perry - California Girls (Single, June 20)
And the Number One that convinced me I should follow the charts: I was soon disappointed...

About The Author: Alex
About the author:
Alex Spencer lives in a palace
built of his satisfaction at the
masterful work of his peers. No,
you're my favourite! No, you!

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London, United Kingdom
Videogames, film, music, comics: feed them into the Alex-Spencer machine and out come neat little articles. Like the ones you're looking at here.